In a generation of selfies, Instagram models and other homogeneity the internet has upheld as gospel, Uche Uba has found his niche within individualism where he fits in comfortably. The young Lagosian is almost literally a unicorn in Lagos’ vast style space and his signature looks including chic dresses, a whimsical approach to makeup and painted nails are a welcome novelty. At the just concluded Lagos Fashion and Design Week for instance, of the thousands of stylish Fashion Week attendees, Uche Uba’s wardrobe choices were without a doubt one-of-a-kind. Many were impressed with his combination of a red deep V-neck blouse, cigarette pants and dusted brown satin shawl, which stood out in the Fashion Week Street Style crowd.
If you find yourself enamoured by flair and charm, your eyes probably caught a glimpse of the fashion-forward Uche Uba, who is able to express his own style uncompromisingly. During the course of Fashion Week, we caught up with the Style Star to discuss his looks for Lagos Fashion Week, style influences and growing up fabulous in a culturally conservative society like Nigeria.
(A Nasty Boy): Your aesthetic is profoundly outré and we adore your self-confidence. What inspires you?
(Uche Uba): Thank you! Life inspires me really. The need to do more, the need to break boundaries, people, limitations, negativity, positivity, the truth, my truth and my reality. These are my profound inspirations. There are so many stories to be told and I draw inspiration from them and my need to tell them.
(ANB): Considering your personal style, what is your biggest challenge and how do you combine it with your daily activities?
(U.U.): I honestly don’t think my style poses any challenge to my day-to-day activities and routines. I’m almost always in T-shirts and jeans. But if I dig deep, I think one challenge would be the weather in relation to what I wear. I’m a fan of heavy clothings but the weather in Nigeria doesn’t really give room for that. I do not count stares I get as a challenge, by the way [because] that’s the intended goal, to live my truth and make an impact.
(ANB): How would you describe your style?
(U.U.): My style is very androgynous, quite rebellious and eccentric. I call it a non-comformist sense of style, very experimental and forever under reconstruction too. I never want to stay the same for long but despite the changes I go through in terms of personal style, my innermost self rings true. I’m also quite minimalist.
(ANB): What propelled you to define your own elegance, considering the Nigerian masculine stereotype on fashion?
(U.U.): I just wanted to be more comfortable and challenge the redundant idea that a gender should conform to a particular stereotype. I think I was also quite tired of looking like everyone else. I’ve always hated that. Normal is the reality of some people, but not mine.
(ANB): Drawing from Nigerian stereotypes around masculinity, what would you say the reception has been to your personal style and reception from family, friends and random people?
(U.U.): It has been a mix really. My family still thinks I need prayers haha. And I know people who won’t let me go out with them because they think I might show up looking too extra. But I’ve gotten good reception as well, especially amongst fellow fashion creatives and artistic minds and I’m grateful for that. To be honest, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometimes these criticisms help us stay on track.
(ANB): What are your thoughts about the “Street Style” theme showcased at the LFDW ’17 and how young Nigerians are able to relate to it?
(U.U.): It was honestly beautiful. Nigerian youths and creatives are so talented! I give them that. I think this year was better than the last. People still had their risqué looks on but I feel it was done with heads full of brains and lessons learned this time around. The energy was vibrant and positive. Young minds really came through this year and for me that shows growth.
ANB: How are you able to exist in the space especially with the conservative and strict idea of masculinity?
(U.U.): I don’t try to exist, I live fully and freely. Anyone who disapproves can come and move me to Mars. Quite frankly, I have never been one to struggle with my identity and I’m almost now oblivious to the fact that I am an androgynous individual living and thriving in a society that exalts male stereotypes and hangs on to its fragile masculinity. There’s more to life than all of that. I crave a deeper sense of being.
(ANB): How would you define your LFDW style and what inspired your looks?
(U.U.): Hahaha, they were fashion risks that paid off. I think they were Uche Uba in clothing form. They were me. Although one outfit, in particular, was inspired by the Halloween craze, [but] they were really a projection and representation of who I am as a person. A rebel and non-conformist. A gender bender.
(ANB): Have you always been this expressive and quirky growing up?
(U.U.): Yes, I’ve always been very expressive. I think, even as a child, I’ve always known what I wanted. I must have derailed at some point, but [I always came back]. I’ve always been quirky and eccentric and I really wouldn’t have it any other way.